WTO Ministerial Conference

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:31 pm on 7th November 2001.

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Photo of Vincent Cable Vincent Cable Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Trade and Industry) 4:31 pm, 7th November 2001

May I add my welcome for the Secretary of State's timely statement, and take the opportunity to reiterate my belief that an open and liberal trading system, strengthened by this round, is exactly the way to counter the present crisis of confidence in the international economy, and particularly to help developing countries to progress through trade, which, as she rightly says, is the primary objective of the new round? I also ask her to go a little further and condemn some of the weasel words of her fellow Trade Ministers and Commission officials in Europe, who are still resisting the idea that radical trade liberalisation in agriculture and other protected sectors, such as textiles, has to happen, and that those product areas are crucial for all developing countries, not just the least developed. Will she also make it clearer than she did in her statement that although it is right to strive for enhanced environmental and labour standards, there is no economic or moral justification for allowing such barriers to be used as an obstruction to trade with countries that are too poor to afford those standards?

Finally, as the Secretary of State for International Development has joined her on the Front Bench, may I ask the right hon. Lady to emulate her colleague's forthright and occasionally courageous stance against some of the myths of the anti-globalisation movement, which are influential and do great damage? In particular, will she dismiss the fashionable myth that the World Trade Organisation exists to undermine public health and education, when it does nothing of the kind?